Mase_ChameleonAs one of popular music’s most renowned drummers, Harvey Mason has amassed an incredible resume that befits a legendary performer. He possesses the rare ability to play with a wide range of musicians in a variety of styles, from high-grade straight-up pop to stimulating straight-ahead jazz to smooth, R&B-flavored jazz. On the threshold of entering his fifth decade as an oftentimes behind-the-scenes star, Mason continues to deliver his stylistic innovation as a master of the drum set.

What follows is a thumbnail primer on Mase Magic history. Recognized for both his always-fresh approach and his knack for participating in groundbreaking music, Mason was classically trained at the New England Conservatory and began his post-school career by supporting jazz piano greats Erroll Garner and George Shearing.
Soon after, he was one of the significant pioneers of the newfangled jazz movement of fusion, camping out in the Blue Note Records stables with the likes of Donald Byrd, Bobbi Humphrey, et al, creating hits with the production team of the Mizell Brothers. Mason was also the drummer of choice on the Columbia Records debut recording of Herbie Hancock’s iconic electric band, Head Hunters (co-writing the classic hit “Chameleon”). After launching a prolific solo career signed to Arista by Clive Davis, Mason later linked up with Bob James that resulted in the formation of the smooth jazz super band Fourplay, which today continues to record contemporary jazz at its finest. In addition to being an invaluable sideman stylistically ranging from pop to jazz, Mason has forged an impressive solo career as bandleader and composer. In fact, several of his songs have been sampled by hip-hop greats such as Notorious Big, TI and P. Diddy.

In reflecting on his historic compositional collaboration with Hancock, Mason comments that he’s very much like the color-changing lizard. “Chameleon defines me,” he says. “That’s what I identify myself as. I can easily switch into different areas of quality music.” That’s not only served him well with his innovative, compelling drumming in a broad swath of stylistic settings, but it also characterizes his new concept band (called Chameleon), which in 2010 toured in Japan.

“We’re definitely not stuck in a bebop or the smooth jazz zone,” Mason says, then adds with a laugh, “The audiences come and don’t know what they’re going to hear but they’ve come to trust me.” In fact, the big draw is Mason’s brilliance in synchronizing his high-hat cymbals, snare drums and bass drums with graceful precision—which has garnered him four top awards from Modern Drummer magazine’s annual studio poll, three consecutive Smooth Jazz Drummer of the year awards with another nomination in 2010 and NARAS’s MVP Studio Drummer award.

That ability to shift gears stylistically has certainly been the modus operandi for the entirety of Mason’s career. “Even though my first love has always been jazz,” he says, “I love playing everything from orchestral to straight-ahead jazz and everything in between. I feel complete and fully stimulated.”

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1947, Mason grew up in a jazz culture. He frequented the boardwalk city’s club, The Wonder Garden, where all the jazz giants played. “I worked weekends and off hours, did afternoon matinees and met some incredible drummers such as Roy Haynes and Billy Hart,” he says. “Billy was a real supporter who recognized my talents. In fact, he was the person who later recommended me to Herbie Hancock when he was preparing to change his band. Billy told him, ‘You’ve got to listen to this cat.’”

But before that, Mason sought more schooling. He moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music and later graduated from the New England Conservatory (where he’s presently on the school’s Board of Visitors). He lived there from 1966-70. After returning from his first tour with Garner (seven weeks in Europe), Mason took a job with Shearing, who lived on the West Coast.“It was the perfect situation for moving to Los Angeles,” he says. He headed West in 1971 and has made the city his home base ever since.

That’s where Mason met Hancock and recorded with the Head Hunters. He played on the smash 1973 album, which included the fused “Chameleon” (which clocked in at an expansive 15:44 and earned Mason his first Grammy nomination for Instrumental Composition) as well as Mason’s funky new arrangement of the leader’s ‘60s hit, “Watermelon Man.” But Mason opted out of touring. “I wasn’t interested in going on the road,” he says. “My goal was to do studio work. So I stayed home and never even gave it a thought that I would ever have a solo career.”

After recording on siblings Michael (saxophone)and Randy (trumpet) Brecker’s 1975 debut album, Brecker Brothers, Mason returned to the studio for the “heavy-metal bebop” follow-up, Back to Back. Both albums were released on Arista. Label founder Clive Davis came by the sessions to see what was going on. Coincidentally, Mason had been reading Davis’ 1975 memoir, Clive: Inside the Record Business. “I told Clive I had just finished his book,” Mason says. “He asked me if I was writing songs and would I be interested in recording for him. I told him that I never thought of myself in that way, that I was happy to enjoy the anonymity of being a session drummer.”
But Davis persisted, signed Mason for a five-album deal and set the drummer free to pursue his art. That began with the 1977 debut Marchin’ in the Street with the highlight of the series being 1977’s Funk in a Mason Jar album. Also, on his 1979 Groovin’ You album, the same titled tune was released as a single and became a big hit in the disco world (it was later sampled by house music producer Gusto on his 1995 hit “Disco’s Revenge”). Also on the album, Mason’s tune “Wave” was nominated for two Grammys in the Instrumental Composition and R&B Instrumental categories. However, as Mason’s contract began to run its course, the drummer was happy to leave the label. “It got to a point where they were dictating that I needed to record more hits,” he says. “But it’s hard making music that isn’t your priority.”

Mason continued to be a studio ace as well as work in Hollywood & New York-based sessions. In an interview with Lee Bailey (on metacafe.com), Mason said, “I didn’t really care about fame.” He added that whatever did come his way was “a by-product of having fun and the joy of recording great music.” The next major turn in the drummer’s career came in 1991 after he accompanied pianist Bob James on his 1990 Grand Piano Canyon album on Warner Bros. Mason was asked by his longtime New York-based friend to assemble a band for his first West Coast session. One of the groups included guitarist Lee Ritenour (later replaced by Larry Carlton) and bassist Nathan East. The chemistry was strong enough to spark the beginning of smooth jazz.

“Bob loved the rhythm section and asked if we’d be interested in forming a band. We all said yes,” recalls Mason. “So Bob called [Warner president] Mo Austin, who signed us as ƒOURPLAY and the next thing we knew our 1991 self-titled debut went platinum.” The album was, in one critic’s estimation, a “lightly sautéed jazz offering, low-keyed and relaxed.” Subsequent albums went gold and earned a total of six Contemporary Jazz nominations over the course of ƒOURPLAY’S career. The band toured frequently.
While ƒOURPLAY grew in popularity, Mason continued to gig in other session settings as well as finally return to pursuing his solo career, beginning with his well-received 1996 album Ratamacue (Warners), also nominated for a Grammy as best Contemporary Jazz album. “Being on the road with ƒOURPLAY, I started to have interaction with people about how influential my drumming was to them,” says Mason, who can play refined, smooth, funky and swinging. So, with this in mind, he began to explore again his jazz roots, recording two trio albums on Japanese label Video Arts: 2004’s With All My Heart (licensed and released in the U.S. by Bluebird/RCA) and 2008’s Trios 2: Changing Partners (not yet licensed in the U.S.). Both feature collaborations in trio formats with the crème de crème of the jazz world, including pianists Hancock, James, Dave Grusin, Chick Corea, Hank Jones, Kenny Barron, Fred Hersch, Monty Alexander, Mulgrew Miller, Makoto Ozone, Jacky Terrasson, Cedar Walton, Brad Mehldau, Kenny Barron and Gonzalo Rubalcala; and bassists Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, Charnett Moffett,Larry Grenadier, Stanley Clarke, Dave Carpenter, Eddie Gomez, George Mraz and Buster Williams.

Writing in the press notes for With All My Heart, Mason said, “It’s a chance for jazz purists to really check out the total chameleon that I am, regardless of the situation.”

With a commitment to slacken his work in the studio and to heighten his solo career, Mason says that he’s finally finding a good balance. “It’s become more evident to me how much I love playing live and having interaction with band mates and music fans. I’m not a smooth jazz player or a straight-ahead jazz player. I’m more than all of that, I am The Chameleon.” He smiles and adds, “The best is yet to come.”

THE VIEW FROM HERE

Bassist Kyle Eastwood frequently integrates a cinematic contour into his body of work. And true to form, he’s contributed music to eight of his famous father, actor, and director Clint Eastwood’s films. The bassist’s output can be characterized by tuneful hooks, calmly soaring opuses, and countered by odd-metered time signatures, clement flows, and passionate soloing spots. Indeed, his meticulous composing skills create intriguing propositions.

With handclaps and a prominent bass ostinato on the Flamenco-tinged “Sirocco,” the band fuses an expansive rock pulse with subtle North African cadences and trumpeter Quentin Collins’ flirtatious lines, and is one of several works integrating a world-music vibe. The musicians’ tender an international flavor, comprised of festive world-beat thematic forays, disseminated within a transparent modern jazz framework.

Eastwood’s arrangements are interspersed with his fluidly pumping lines and the quintet’s harmonious modalities, spiced with the hornists’ fervent soloing jaunts. He varies the pace on the promiscuous “The Promise,” imparting a moody and introspective motif, featuring profound and articulately expressed phrasings from Collins and saxophonist Graeme Blevins. Here, vivid imagery is sparked by the self-analytical storyline, reinforced by the leader’s nimble execution and subdued counterpoint of the primary melody. The divergent aspects of the album continue via the piano trio workout “Summer Gone,” framed on a reflective theme, the frontline’s gliding notes, and beefed up by Eastwood’s Jaco Pastorius influenced electric bass support.

Putting his sophisticated technical skills aside, the artist’s multi-purposed methodology transcends the perimeters of what might be considered old-hat or blasé within many jazz-centered stylizations. He’s not just another kid out of music school trying to impress by groping through difficult time signatures and inharmonious themes. On the contrary, Eastwood is an artiste. His mode of jazz expressionism tenders a multitude of gripping substructures, as he acutely transmutes these qualities into a highly entertaining form-factor.

Track Listing: From Rio To Havana; For M.E.; The View From Here; Sirocco; Luxor; Une Nuit Au Senegal; The Way Home; The Promise; Mistral; Summer Gone; Route De La Buissonne.

Personnel: Kyle Eastwood: double bass, electric bass; Graeme Blevins: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Graeme Flowers: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andrew McCormack: piano, electric piano; Martyn Kaine: drums. – allaboutjazz.com

BOB JAMES – ALONE
‘Having had the good fortune over the years to make jazz recordings with many great collaborators, I felt a responsibility to express my innermost musical thoughts directly through the piano; with no production, rhythm section or electronics, just the piano. Making this music I felt a variety of emotions: power, freedom, fun, control, relaxed, nervous, lonely. Most of all I felt a burning desire to express myself in a direct way through the majestic instrument that I sat in front of my whole life. Sharing with you the sounds that inspire me when I’m Alone…at the piano.’ – Bob James

Track listing:

1 – Restoration
2 – I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
3 – My Heart Stood Still
4 – Never Let Me Go
5 – Wild Stallion
6 – Karesansui
7 – Scarborough Fair
8 – It Never Entered My Mind
9 – Lover Come Back to Me
10 – Garbo Redux
11 – Medley (Westchester Lady / Touchdown / Nautilus / Angela)
12 – Put Our Hearts Together

HIROSHIMA – J-TOWN BEAT
With melodies as exotic and mystical as Japan itself, one of the most iconic cornerstones in contemporary jazz, Hiroshima, is back with a new set of hypnotic tracks that immediately capture your heart and imagination. This time, the gift of exoticism comes in the form of their new release J-Town Beat, a totally refreshing approach to the genre that offers a different direction for the band in some ways but still maintains the essence of their attractiveness.  As leader Dan Kuramoto (saxes, flutes, shakuhachi, keys, percussion, and composer/co-composer) says: “J-Town refers to Japan Town USA. It’s a microcosm of all the multi-cultural communities that make America the most diverse country in the world, and how best to reflect that than in music?” When you listen to this latest project from the longstanding group (original instrumental members still intact, by the way!), you clearly understand what the always musically passionate and creative Kuramoto means.

Here, you will find dreamy, soulful lyrics sung by vocalists Terry Steele and Vinx De’Jon Parrette, the magical storytelling koto of June Kuramoto, and the compelling Far Eastern landscape offered up by her husband’s writing and others in the band who’ve lent their hand to the compositions.  Not to be ignored, the up-tempo funky vibe of more typical contemporary jazz has a place here, as well…but that has always been Hiroshima’s way. You can hear that, as well as that awesome Japanese influence in pieces like “Cruisin’ J-Town.”

The album opens with an up-tempo and irresistible journey straight into the heart of Japan called “Red Buddha,” then goes a bit bossa nova with “Lost in Provence.”  It then steps into the low romantic light of seduction with “State of Mind,” turns on the mid-tempo funk with “Da Kitchen,”  and unleashes the powerfully caressing baritone vocals of Parrette (aka Vinx) on the sweet “Lady of Mystery” (and he does a remarkable job of painting a portrait of this mysterious lady for us). Equally effective are the magnificent and riveting vocals of Terry Steele on the deliciously lazy and soulful “Days Gone By.”  This gem of an album ends with the beautiful track “To Say Goodbye,” written by June Kuramoto and keyboardist James “Kim” Cornwell.

As I implied above, the pleasantly uncanny thing about Hiroshima is that they can change moods, styles, etc., all while maintaining that signature sound that always includes June Kuramoto’s beckoning and ever-attractive koto…the vehicle we ride into that colorful Hiroshima world.

For Hiroshima fans, you already know what makes this group so incredibly magical. Well, it’s all here and more on J-Town Beat. I strongly suggest that you not let this one escape your ears and its ability to reach your soul and places in your mind that you may have thought couldn’t be touched. Trust me: You will think again. For those few who may be unfamiliar with the supergroup, now’s a great time to get acquainted. Two thumbs up to this remarkable band that always seems to make it happen time and time again. – Ronald Jackson.

HERB ALPERT – STEPPIN’ OUT
Grammy®-winning jazz great Herb Alpert is Steppin’ Out on November 19 with a new album on Shout! Factory. Combining pop instrumentals and timeless jazz along with Latin-influenced rhythms reminiscent of the Tijuana Brass, Steppin’ Out explores standards from the American Songbook as well as Alpert’s own catalog, and features his wife, the Grammy®-winning vocalist Lani Hall, on several tracks.

Steppin’ Out includes 16 songs, including a contemporary version of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” a video for which has just been released. The music has an undeniable charm coupled with an energetic and intricate dance routine choreographed by the Emmy® award-winning team from So You Think You Can Dance, Napoleon & Tabitha D’umo, creating a magical pied piper-like scene. The video features musicians Lani Hall, Bill Cantos, Hussain Jiffry, Michael Shapiro and dancer Vincent Noiseux alongside corps dancers like Kherington Payne and others from So You Think You Can Dance USA, America’s Best Dance Crew, Dancing with the Stars, This is It, and Step Up. The video follows the lead dancer in one single seamless camera shot, without any edits, on a musical journey, motivating everyone he passes to join the promenade.

Also featured on Steppin’ Out is Alpert and Jeff Lorber’s “Jacky’s Place,” with lyrics by Bill Cantos, featuring vocals by Lani Hall, Art Pepper’s ballad “Our Song,” the chill Alpert/Lorber/Cantos composition “Green Lemonade,” Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s “I Only Have Eyes For You,” featuring vocals by Hall, Ruben Fuentes Gasson’s “Good Morning Mr. Sunshine,” from the Tijuana Brass’ 1969 album The Brass Are Coming, the commanding ballad “Oblivion,” written by Astor Piazzolla}, Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do,” featuring vocals by Hall, the Alpert/Lorber/Cantos composition “Cote d’Azur,” a fresh version of {{Edith Piaf’s perennial favorite “La Vie En Rose,” Carl Sigman and Charles Dawes’ “It’s All In The Game” featuring Hall, Carlos Santana and Thomas J. Coster’s “Europa,” Ziggy Elman and Johnny Mercer’s “And The Angels Sing,” which originally appeared on Alpert’s Going Places, Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark,” and Alpert and Jeff Lorber’s “Migration,” with lyrics written by Bill Cantos and vocals by Hall. Closing out the album is the 50th Anniversary version of “The Lonely Bull,” composed by Sol Lake and first released on Alpert’s debut album on A&M Records.

Steppin’ Out features Herb Alpert on trumpet and vocals, Lani Hall on vocals, Bill Cantos on keyboards, Michael Shapiro on drums and percussion, Hussain Jiffry on bass, Coco Triuisonno on bandoneon, and Ramon Stagnaro on acoustic guitar. Herb Alpert and Lani Hall produced the bulk of the album, while “Puttin’ on the Ritz” was produced by Randy “Badazz” Alpert and Herb Alpert. “Jacky’s Place,” “Green Lemonade,” “Côte d’Azur,” and “Migration” were produced by Jeff Lorber and Herb Alpert, and co-produced by Lani Hall, with additional guitar from Paul Jackson Jr

Herb Alpert is a true Renaissance man and known as a world renowned musician, record label co-founder, music producer, composer, arranger, visual artist, Broadway producer and philanthropist. After early success composing “Wonderful World” with Sam Cooke and Lou Adler, Alpert went on to co-found A&M Records in 1962 with Jerry Moss, which grew from Alpert’s garage in West Hollywood into the largest independent record label in history. Alpert introduced the Tijuana Brass phenomenon with a signature sound that propelled him to global fame. In 1966, when the TJB craze was unstoppable, he achieved the unmatched accomplishment of having 5 albums, at the same time, on Billboard’s Top 20. He has sold over 75 million records, with 15 certified platinum and 14 gold. Alpert’s many music honors include 7 Grammy® Awards, the prized Trustees Grammy® Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama. He is the only artist to have a #1 record as a singer, “This Guy’s in Love with You” and as an instrumentalist, “Rise” in 1979.

Alpert explains, “There is a certain satisfaction and energy that comes from playing the horn – a feeling that I am really in the moment.” Herb Alpert has never stopped making music and in addition to his musical accomplishments, he has spent more than half his life as a respected, abstract expressionist painter and sculptor, whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world.

Herb Alpert and his wife, singer, Lani Hall, have been performing together, with their band, since 2006 and have previously released two CDs, Anything Goes and I Feel You.

Shout! Factory! Factory, LLC is a diversified multi-platform entertainment company devoted to producing, uncovering, preserving and revitalizing the very best of pop culture. Founders Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos have spent their entire careers sharing their music, television and film favorites with discerning consumers the world over. Shout! Factory’s DVD and Blu-Ray™ offerings serve up feature films, classic and contemporary TV series, animation, live music and comedy specials in lavish packages crammed with extras. Shout’s audio division boasts GRAMMY®-nominated box sets, new releases from storied artists, lovingly assembled album reissues and indispensable “best of” compilations. In addition, Shout! Factory maintains a vast digital distribution network which delivers video and audio content to all the leading digital service providers in North America. Shout! Factory also owns and operates Timeless Media Group, Biograph Records, Majordomo Records, HighTone Records and Video Time Machine. These riches are the result of a creative acquisition mandate that has established the company as a hotbed of cultural preservation and commercial reinvention. Shout! Factory is based in Santa Monica, California. – allaboutjazz.com

JOSE JAMES – NO BEGINNING NO END

In Harlem back at the dawn of the last century, there was a dance called the Messaround. To do it, you’d bounce on your toes, shimmy your middle and keep your shoulders as still as possible. It was more a show of dexterity than a choreographed routine. It was sexy but playful, hard to define, yet easy to blend with other dances. The Messaround made the hybrid soul of popular music into a physical thing; it showed how discipline and release, fun and serious skill, complement each other.

The vocalist Jose James makes utterly contemporary music more grounded in neo-soul and hip-hop’s Native Tongues movement than in the dance crazes of the 1920s. Yet in his elegant, cerebral, seductive way, James is definitely doing the Messaround. His fourth album skirts categories with ease, fitting in with current R&B innovators like Frank Ocean or Miguel, yet maintaining a strong awareness of a lineage that stretches from Ray Charles to Marvin Gaye to Lou Rawls to Maxwell.

Eclecticism is, in some ways, the very subject of No Beginning No End (out Jan. 22)James strategized his approach after conversations with Leon Ware, the Motown-era songwriter who expanded soul’s palette working with Gaye, Quincy Jones, Minnie Riperton and many others. Pino Palladino, the Welsh bassist who’s worked with classic rockers like The Who and John Mayer and jazz stars like Roy Hargrove, is a co-producer. Robert Glasper and Kris Browers, both trailblazing young jazz genre-busters, make key appearances. Interacting with this top-notch crew, James goes beyond what’s expected from an “alternative R&B” singer who splits the difference between Bill Withers and D’Angelo. James finds his own voice by paying deep attention to technique without compromising passion — sultry one moment, commanding the next, he holistically heals the rift between radio-friendly songcraft and virtuoso flair.

Surrounded by these outstanding male players, James found himself wanting more “female energy”, he’s said. He cultivates that yin in remarkable duets with the New York singer-songwriter Emily King and the Moroccan chanteuse Hindi Zahra. These rich exchanges form the heart of the album, and again show James’ eagerness to go beyond his comfort zone: “Sword & Gun” takes on the North African flavor of Zahra’s music, while in “Heaven on the Ground,” James explores King’s instrument — the guitar — giving the duet multidimensional intimacy.

A few years ago, the scrupulously eclectic James seemed like something of an outlier, too sensually inclined for straight jazz and too contemplative for R&B or pop. Now, though, he’s a young lion within a growing community that includes Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, Janelle Monae, Gregory Porter, and Lianne La Havas. His slow and sultry Messaround makes sense for this moment. Won’t you let him have this dance? – npr.org

KYLE WOLVERTSON – “DON’T STOP THE MUSIC”

‘Since early 2012, Kyle and the crew have been busy writing and recording the music for the new release.  It has been a wonderful process and the band has grown tighter through the process.  The debut CD ” Soul Groove” enjoyed wonderful success both in the US and abroad.  Kyle and his all-star band were welcomed to the stage by the music community with open arms.

Critics and listeners alike agreed that there was something very unique about the project as it layered together so many different musical genres in a seamless and pleasing fashion.  “Don’t Stop the Music” picks up right where “Soul Groove” left off.  Strong melodies with New Orleans second line style brass, combined with a hard driving funk flare are sure to keep audiences dancing in the days ahead.

The collaboration of talent on this project is really a big coming of age for Kyle and his legendary band.  The inter-twining of talent with artists like Nick Colionne, DW3, and more has resulted in an album that is like no other.  “Don’t Stop the Music” is poised to be the breakout surprise of 2013. – kylewolverton.com

SPYRO GYRA – THE RHINEBECK SESSIONS

In April 2013, Jay Beckenstein and the members of Spyro Gyra entered a recording studio in Rhinebeck, NY, a small town in the Hudson Valley not too far from Woodstock. Beckenstein and his bandmates set out to do something that they had never done before in their nearly forty year history – improvise with each other over three days and in the process write and record an entire new album.

“As I thought about doing another record, I asked myself, what is it that makes Spyro Gyra special?” Beckenstein explains, “I decided that it was the fact that we have been together so long that the communication between us has become almost mystical. Our ability to improvise on the fly has become so strong because we have played together so much. It was time to go into the studio with very little planned and see what might come out of it.”

Beckenstein concedes, “It was a bit of a gamble but we’re lucky to have a loyal fan base who are probably going to be interested in what we’re doing. I was also fairly confident that whatever came out of it would be pretty close to the way we have approached our live shows for years.” – spyrogyra.com

JEFF LORBER FUSION – HACIENDA
Keyboardist/composer/producer Jeff Lorber, heralded as “one of the founding fathers of fusion” (Keyboard), returns with his GRAMMY®-nominated power trio the Jeff Lorber Fusion, featuring bassist/co-producer Jimmy Haslip and saxophonist Eric Marienthal. Since the late 1970s, this contemporary jazz collective has blended elements of jazz, funk, rock, R&B and world music into a distinctive sound that has connected with audiences from a variety of continents, cultures and generations.

In more recent years, the group’s studio efforts such as their 2010 release, Now Is the Time (2010) and Galaxy (2012), influenced by extensive touring throughout Europe and Asia, have been colored with vibrant shades of dance and house music.

These same colors are at the forefront of Hacienda, the new album from the Jeff Lorber Fusion scheduled for release August 27, 2013 on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group. Co-produced by Lorber and Haslip, Hacienda spotlights eleven tracks, including a brilliant take on the Frank Zappa composition “King Kong,” with Jean-Luc Ponty on violin. Other guests include Larry Koonse, Paul Jackson, Jr., Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Lenny Castro, David Mann, and more.

The album title – the Spanish word for house – is partly inspired by the club in Manchester, England, with the same name that fostered an exciting dance music scene that eventually came to be known as house music. Lorber, who explored the style earlier in his career, revisits it in various places on Hacienda.

“Eric and Jimmy and I had done a lot of touring in 2011 and 2012,” says Lorber. “By the time we were back in the States in the fall of 2012, and we realized that Vinnie Colaiuta was available, the whole thing came together very spontaneously. Hacienda takes what we started on some of our previous records and puts it into a tighter focus. It also reflects the excitement of doing a lot of touring and discovering what really worked – funky rhythms, unusual chord changes – for international audiences that really understood where we were coming from.”

The offbeat and funky are immediately evident in “Corinaldo,” the complex opening track that consists of multiple sections. “It’s not simple at all,” says Lorber. “It’s unusual, and it goes to some unlikely places – which is what helps the track maintain a level of excitement. Eric, who is known primarily as an alto sax player, takes a tenor solo on that song that is just incredible.”

“Solar Wind” features an L.A.-based guitarist named Larry Koonse, who “kind of takes it outside a little bit, but in a way that the average listener can still enjoy,” says Lorber. Koonse reappears several tracks later in the midtempo “Playa Del Falco,” a melodic ballad in 6/8 which Haslip describes as “very modal, very polyrhythmic, with a little bit of a Latin vibe.”

Lorber and company’s intriguing rendition of Frank Zappa’s “King Kong” – featuring Jean-Luc Ponty and Ed Mann on marimba – is the only cover on the record. “It’s a song I’ve always loved,” says Lorber. “What you hear on the record is actually just a really quick arrangement that I put together, but a lot of stuff happened spontaneously in the studio that became part of the arrangement. It was almost an accident, but it came out great, and it became one of my favorite songs on the record when Jean-Luc Ponty, who also used to work with Frank Zappa, and Ed Mann, who was a member of the Mothers of Invention, both agreed to play on it.”

Unlike the uptempo tracks at the front end of the album, “The Steppe” settles into a quieter groove that focuses more on melody than intensity, with the help of a fine sax solo from Marienthal that rounds out the track. “That was Eric’s first take,” says Lorber. “He’s the kind of guy who likes to play things over and over again until they’re perfect, but I told him, ‘Man, that first take, that was it. Don’t waste your time playing any more solos.’ He insisted on recording it several more times, but eventually we went back to the first take.”

The swing-flavored “Raptor” was one of the first tunes that Lorber played for Haslip and Marienthal when the idea for the album was just beginning to take shape. “It was just a loose jam at the time,” says Haslip, “but I thought, ‘Wow, what a cool tune.’ I knew it was an indication of what was to come, because I could see that Jeff was on a roll. He was inspired, and I could see that he was writing a lot of material.”

The set closes with “Dragonfly,” a track written by Haslip that features guest drummer Dave Weckl. “We knew we wanted to do something kind of special with this track, so we got Dave,” says Lorber. “He played an incredible drum part on that song. Also, Dave Mann, who does a lot of the horn parts and horn arranging for this record, stepped up on this track and delivered a really interesting bass clarinet solo.”

In the end, Hacienda is the culmination of several years’ worth of exploration in the studio along with several thousand miles worth of self discovery in live performances around the globe. At the end of that journey, Jeff Lorber Fusion is exactly where it should be – in the house, and deep in the groove.

“Hacienda is a bit more focused than some of our previous projects,” says Lorber. “The writing is more original, the playing is better, the overall vibe is more exciting. And we had a blast bringing it all together. In the end, that’s what it’s all about. If you want people to enjoy the music, you have to put the good vibes in when you make it so people can get the good vibes out when they hear it.” – theurbanmusicscene.com

JEFF GOLUB w/BRIAN AUGER – TRAIN KEEPS A ROLLING
Jeff Golub always has one up his sleeve to grab you. His upcoming release, Train Keeps A Rolling (due out on Aug. 13), is a return to the guitarist’s blues and rock roots with lots of bluesy licks topped off with keyboardist Brian Auger’s oh-so-funky and right Jeff Golub & Brian AugerHammond B3 and powerful compositions.

Golub’s spirit, strength, and conviction to stay firmly in the mix since his unfortunate loss of sight (which I still pray is temporary) are outstanding, to say the least. Helping him and Auger with this project are heavies like Ambrosia’s David Pack, sax lady Mindi Abair, a few of Auger’s Oblivion Express band: drummer Steve Ferrone and vocalist Alex Ligertwood, percussionist Luis Conte, and vocalist/songwriter Christopher Cross (wow, haven’t heard from him in ages).

This mix of jazz, blues, and rock captures so much of what was, what is, and embraces all in between. Golub’s fiery blues and rock licks are unforgettable as Auger’s driving style and power fully complement the guitarist. These two should have done this a long while ago. It’s full of phat grooves, gutsy blues, and energy off the charts.

Blues, jazz, or rock fans will find something palatable with this one. When you listen to the likes of the lead track– the pumped up cover of Lalo Schifrin’s bluesy “The Cat”—then, swing on over to the cool remake of Ace’s “How Long,” stroll over to Auger’s “Happiness Is Just Around the Bend,” check out Golub’s lead track (co-written with Chris Palmaro), and witness the cover of The Police’s “Walking On The Moon,” you’ll get the full-blown picture of the bite of this album. Hot ‘n’ ready stuff.

This collaboration was a stroke of genius, and it shows. The will and drive of both of these men and their supporting band speak volumes about their dedication to good music, and it makes you wish every single musician alive had that focus and dedication. Many, many do, some don’t. Let’s consider ourselves very blessed and a little lucky that what we’re used to hearing still thrives robustly in the hearts and souls of musicians such as you’ll hear on this project. – Ronald Jackson, thesmoothjazzride.com

CHUCK LOEB – SILHOUETTE

Guitarist Chuck Loeb is well known as jazz guitarist in groups such as Metro, Steps Ahead or Stan Getz’s band. But he became popular by his solo albums as smooth jazz guitarist. His participation in the group Fourplay is a fruit of this popularity.

Exploring different facets of jazz might be joyful, but to earn money with smooth jazz is the real deal. On the new album we discover Chuck’s companions like David Mann, Eric Marienthal, Andy Snitzer (sax), Mitchel Forman (keyboards), but also his family members Carmen Cuesta and Lizzy Loeb.

On Silhouette Chuck easily adapts the style of Fourplay, he has helped shape who also influenced him. Chuck follows this exciting joy ride on Silver Lining. Listen to Fourplay’s Bali Run and you know what I mean. David Mann adds some Smoothness on sax.

When you love Metro’s Month of Sunday’s then Present Sense is the right continuation. Loeb and Mitchel Forman showcase on this piece all their prowess again. On Appreciation Loeb drifts in the Contemporary Jazz, where Mitchel with his brilliant contributions provides the best template. JT is a tribute to James Taylor, one of Chuck’s all time favorite artists. The melodious song features Eric Marienthal on sax.

The driving tune Lockdown presents the new discovery, pianist Oli Rockberger and trumpet player Giulio Carmassi. A swinging tune with some edges. Stompin‘ showcases Chuck’s collaboration with organist Pat Bianchi in the tradition of Montgomery and Jimmy Smith.

On the final part of his album Loeb features his wife Carmen Cuesta with a rendition of Esta Tarde Vi Llover (English version “Yesterday I Heard the Rain”), a composition by Armando Manzanero, his daughter Lizzy Loeb on My One and Only Love, a jazz standard by Guy Wood and Adam Makowicz and his daughter Christina Loeb on Las Eras, inspired by their summers in Northern Spain. Christina plays the Ukulele, while Chuck is accompanying her on acoustic guitar.

Chuck Loeb’s Silhouette is a colorful compendium of all that Chuck is currently epitomizes. Smooth Jazz, Jazz, Contemporary Jazz and Spanish folklore are not contradictions but different sides of his musical personality. – smoothandjazz.com


KEIKO MATSUI – SOUL QUEST

Since the 1989 release of her first US album, ‘A Drop of Water’, Japanese keyboard player Keiko Matsui has been carving out her own special place in the annals of contemporary jazz. Now, with over twenty CD’s to her name and an extravagant tour schedule that in the last twelve months has taken her coast to coast across America as well as to Japan and Eastern Europe, she is back with her latest project ‘Soul Quest’. A sophisticated collection with far more to offer than that merely defined by the limited confines of radio acceptability, it is characterized by ten original compositions and sumptuous collaborations with chart-topping producers Chuck Loeb and Narada Michael Walden.

‘Soul Quest’ opens with ‘Dream Seeker’ that has already been described elsewhere as being both transcendental and majestic. Co-written by guitarist and producer Chuck Loeb it features his flamenco style playing and is added to in no small measure by soaring sax from Andy Snitzer. Loeb is also around for ‘Top Secret’ that, with a bluesy undercurrent and a rhythmic pulse, benefits from cool muted trumpet from Giulio Carmassi. It’s a tune with a decidedly catchy quality and in this respect is in the good company of Matsui’s own composition ‘A Night With Cha Cha’ for which Loeb again makes a contribution.

Keiko joined up with Narada Michael Walden in a studio in San Francisco and had originally planned to record just one song with him. In the event, the synergy they developed let to a total of three. The atmospheric “moving ountain’ was recorded in a single take, while ‘Antarctica – A Call To Action’ highlights the catastrophe of global warming and how the progressive melting of Antarctica threatens not only the region’s wildlife but also the planet as a whole.

In complete contrast, ‘Stingo’ finds Keiko and Narada paying tribute to Sting who, as well as being Matsui’s all-time favorite musician, also happens to be a close friend of Walden. This mid tempo charmer has much to commend it and indeed the same can be said of the expansive title cut that totally begs to be united with a movie score. It is one of two tunes produced by long-time associate Derek Nakamoto with the other being the wonderful ‘Black Lion’. Despite taking its name from a restaurant Matsui and her band visited in Georgia, the song was actually evoked by a painting she saw there by the artist Niko Pirosmani. It is the first single to be serviced to radio and combines sophistication and commercial appeal in the way that Matsui seems routinely able to do.

Another personal favorite is the understated, brass driven and hugely soulful ‘Two Hearts’ yet, all things considered; the Smooth Jazz Therapy top track has to be the chilled out ‘Proof’. Written by Loeb with something of a quiet storm thing going on, this is a number certain to make it into my top twenty of 2013. – Smoothjazztherapy.com

EARL KLUGH – HANDPICKED

Guitarist Earl Klugh is often referred to as one of the main progenitors of what is often called contemporary jazz. Since releasing his first recording in 1976, the Detroit-born master of the acoustic-classical guitar has become one of the most imitated icons of the instrument. He has issued at least 23 recordings that have been on Billboard’s top-10 list of jazz albums and is the recipient of 12 GRAMMY nominations.

Handpicked, which is Earl Klugh’s first release on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, reveals his impeccable technique on 16 gorgeous covers of some of your favorite pop, jazz and rock standards. Included are such timeless compositions as: “Lullaby of Birdland” George Shearing’s classic composition; a duet with guitarist Bill Frisell on “Blue Moon;” and Klugh’s own “In Six,” a composition written in the 6/8 time signature that progresses nicely as a danceable melody, among others.

A second duet with Jake Shimabukuro occurs on “Hotel California.” Klugh’s guitar and the virtuoso’s ukulele share different but very complimentary ranges and registers which makes this song one of the more memorable on the recording. Klugh also duets with Vince Gill on “All I Have To Do Is Dream” before seguing into “Going Out of My Head,” the 1970s hit made famous by Little Anthony and the Imperials. All of the songs selected for this exceptional recording deserve the many accolades Earl Klugh is receiving but his fans are sure to enjoy his cover of The Beatles’ lovely composition, “If I Fell.” The song is very beautiful because of its moving melody and inspired lyricism. Earl Klugh reinterprets this great standard with sensitivity and respect that the original composers would definitely enjoy.

When all is said and done, Earl Klugh has delivered a true masterpiece affectionately known asHandpicked. After four decades and over thirty recordings later, the GRAMMY Award-winner and 12 time nominee now shows in a mosaic of pop, rock and jazz standards that he is truly one of music’s most original guitar virtuosos. – Paula Edelstein, examiner.com

GEORGE DUKE – DREAMWEAVER

With the lead and title track drifting along in a dreamlike state, GRAMMY award-winning master producer/keyboardist/composer/arranger George Duke, an icon for the ages without a doubt, offers his first release since the death of his beloved wife Corine. The CD is entitled Dreamweaver, and Duke says he just had to do this to get back on track after being so unmotivated after the tragedy. He calls this latest work of art his “most honest album in several years.”

The master keyboardist/producer was again stirred in re-entering the music world and the studio while on a Capital Jazz Cruise. For the first couple of days, he didn’t play any music but did check out some of the other bands. On the third day, returning to his cabin at around 4 a.m., inspiration struck. Sitting on the deck as the sun came up, a couple of tunes came to mind, he took to pen and paper, and here we are — Duke in one of his finest moments in life, making that eclectic and soul-stirring music.

Dreamweaver, available on July 16, comes packed with guest talent, such as bassists Christian McBride and Stanley Clarke, vocalists Lalah Hathaway, Rachelle Ferrell, the late Teena Marie, and Jeffrey Osborne; guitarists Paul Jackson, Jr. and the late Jef Lee Johnson, among others.

As is always the case with Duke, the CD is full of everything from soup to nuts. Totally touting diversity, so many tracks are easily my faves. They would include the sweet and light mid-tempo autobiographical “Trippin’,” the strong and funky “Ashtray,” and the inspirational “Change the World,” a tune done much in the tradition of “We Are the World” and the late Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,”  the highly charged, high-steppin’ “Jazzmatazz,” the slick, tongue-in-cheek “Round The Way Girl,” and the drivin’ “You Never Know.”  There are more (this is a generous CD of 15 tracks with one mind-blowing 15-minute track,“Burnt Sausage Jam,”which is  simply a must-hear).

There is also the charming, bluesy ballad from the late vocalist Teena Marie. It’s a track on which Duke worked with Marie to place on her 2009 album Congo Square. Afterward, Marie wanted Duke to produce a full-length jazz album for her. This track was to be included on that album before Marie’s passing. Duke presented the track for inclusion on Beautiful, the 2013 posthumous album from Marie, but the producers declined. So, with the blessings of Marie’s daughter, Alia Rose, and Marie’s estate, he added it here.

Duke fans – and fans of good jazz everywhere – should view this as the consummate Duke, back from so much pain to the inspired artist we have come to know and love. You can betthat Corine smiles upon him just for having worked through the grief enough to present this wonderful work which just has to be therapeutic to him. Two thumbs up. – Ronald Jackson, The Smooth Jazz Ride

BWB (RICK BRAUN, KIRK WHALUM, NORMAN BROWN) – “HUMAN NATURE”

What happens when three jazz heavyweights, loaded with credentials, recognitions, and upmost musicianship come together as ‘one’? The answer is B.W.B.! Rick Braun (trumpet and flugelhorn), Kirk Whalum (saxophone), and Norman Brown (guitar) reunite as a group after an 11-year hiatus. Assisted by a talented supporting cast in John Stoddard, Braylon Lacey, Khari Parker, Lenny Castro, and Ralph Lofton, B.W.B. don’t return with any original material. The talented collective goes‘big’ covering the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Choosing personal favorites from Jackson’s collection including work with The Jackson 5 and The Jacksons, as well as solo efforts Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad, B.W.B. assemble a strong effort on Human Nature (via Heads Up International) preserving the legend and affirming the depth of their own artistry.

Expectedly, material considered in itself, Human Nature never misses the mark. Each interpretation is easily worthy of multiple spins. Even so, there are some truly breathtaking triumphs. “Another Part of Me” seems an unexpected opener (Bad), but easily earns it spot upon listening. Retaining the funkiness of the original and adding some jazz flair and angularity, “Another Part of Me” feels as capable as MJ’s most renowned hits. Unsurprisingly, “Billie Jean” (Thriller) is a crowd pleaser, with each musician taking their respective turn covering the melody and infusing individuality. One of the effort’s most soulful showings arrives through one of the oldest tunes, Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Loving You”, a classic courtesy of MJ’s Jackson 5 days. Extended from the four minutes original to lengthier six, B.W.B. transform the classic into a mean, blues-gospel affair. Characterized by rich horn harmonies, Lofton’s soul-wrenching organ, and Whalum’s ‘riled up’, gritty sax, “Who’s Loving You” just might be the effort’s very best.Other cut stand tall additionally. Title track “Human Nature” is transformed into a lovely, smooth-jazz ballad, more restrained and slower than the original. Guest vocalist Sheléa delivers a compelling, pure vocal take on the classic. “I Can’t Help It” (originally from Off the Wall) seems an obscurer choice on paper, but ends up lending itself perfectly to B.W.B.’s jazzy treatment. “I’ll Be There” features clean, clear production work, never sounding overdone or overcrowded. “Man in the Mirror”, one of Jackson’s true crown jewels (Bad) closes the effort as exceptionally as it began. Once again Lofton’s organ adds a gospel touch, while clever quirks and harmonizations truly shape this cut. All three musicians take liberties, giving their own spirit to the reflective, meaningful cut. Other featured cuts include “She’s Out of My Life” (Off The Wall), “Beat It” (Thriller), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (Bad), as well as “Shake Your Body (Down To the Ground)” from The Jacksons.

Ultimately, B.W.B. managed to make eleven of Michael Jackson’s most memorable songs their own, resulting in a superb album. Making previously recorded material ‘original’ or cleverly interpretive own is an incredibly difficult task, particularly from a late icon. Musicians the immense skill of Braun, Whalum, and Brown make the task seems effortless. – Brent Faulkner, The Urban Music Scene

 GEORGE BENSON – INSPIRATION: A TRIBUTE TO NAT KING COLE

Two versions of “Mona Lisa,” perhaps Nat King Cole’s most famous song, frame Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole. The first, opening the album, was recorded by “Lil” George Benson in 1951 after he won a singing contest at the age of 8.  It seems a prophetic recording now that six decades later he has issued this remarkable tribute album, closing it out with an uncannily Nat-like version of the tune.

Benson’s phrasing at the start of “new” version of “Mona Lisa” can’t be an accident.  It’s the highest tribute he could give to King Cole.  But there’s brilliance everywhere on the album. Start with the big band sound of the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra crashing us into Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things.” Wow factor very high. Follow on with Wynton Marsalis leading us into “Unforgettable” wherein Benson accompanies his remarkable vocal with his equally distinctive guitar work. And oh yeah, the late Nelson Riddle’s arrangements are all over this album.  Somewhere Ol’ Blue Eyes is smiling.

Want more?  Idina Menzel of Rent and Wicked fame joins Benson for an outstanding duet on “When I Fall in Love” and we’re only five songs into the album. This is the heart breaker/ tear jerker of the CD and Benson’s guitar is just right, as good as his harmonizing with Menzel. Later, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” may also bring a tear and Till Bronner’s trumpet is as perfect as Marsalis’ on “Unforgettable.” After tears, there’s a smile waiting on the album’s version of Cole’s own “Straighten Up and Fly Right” with its wry swing era arrangement.  Benson has his longest guitar solo here and I wouldn’t have minded more of that throughout but there’s nothing really to complain about.

Nat King Cole, like Louis Armstrong, understood that in the 1950s and ‘60s a black artist had to be absolutely non-threatening to fully appeal to white audiences.  But neither sacrificed artistry on that altar.  They just gave a smile and made America love ‘em. And why not.  The version here of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” has the orchestra playing just so good behind Benson’s smooth, smooth vocal. If it doesn’t bring a smile, you are probably terminally depressed. Benson’s gentle and accomplished approach makes him the perfect guy to do a tribute to Cole. Riddle’s arrangements are perfect for the orchestra. The soloists like Marsalis and Bronner absolutely get it and fit like a well tailored suit. There’s an ironic similarity between the career of Cole and Benson.  Cole first came to prominence as a jazz pianist and Benson as a jazz guitarist.  Their stunning vocal skills were hidden for a while but then the world received even greater gifts.

Any song not mentioned in this review is just as good as those that are.  The album’s as close to perfect as humans get. Still, what I’ll carry with me forever is “Lil” George Benson singing his heart out it 1951.  Thank the musical gods the recording survived.  And that Benson stayed on the planet to give us this as he hit 70. – Brian Arsenault ,“The International Review of Music”

BOB JAMES/DAVID SANBORN “QUARTETTE HUMAINE”
The first creative collaboration between keyboardist-composer-arranger Bob James and alto saxophonist David Sanborn, a quarter century ago, was the million-selling GRAMMY® Award-winning album Double Vision. Over the ensuing years, the mega-stars not infrequently discussed the notion of a follow-up. But only now, with the release of Quartette Humaine (their debut release on Sony Classical’s just-reborn OKeh imprint), has that aspiration reached fruition.

“David and I realized long ago that Double Vision had become more successful than we originally imagined it could be,” James says. “Ironically, although we’ve met in the studio, doing other people’s projects, we’ve never toured, or performed together live as a band. The exception was a midnight jam session at the Tokyo Jazz Festival a few years ago. We played just a couple of tunes, but it engendered the feeling that a reunion was way overdue.”

One of those tunes was “Maputo,” the most famous track from Double Vision. “We’d both done it in various iterations with our respective bands, but this was so much fun, so different from those treatments,” Sanborn states. “That was my impetus. I wanted to do something very different than Double Vision, that would be about us just playing.”

After several months of preparation and discussion, Sanborn and James recorded Quartette Humaine in mid-December of 2012. On their second go-round, the old masters eschew the pop and R&B production values that mark large chunks of their respective discographies, and offer instead an all-acoustic quartet recital consisting of four new compositions by James, three pieces by Sanborn, and two James-arranged covers.

Propelled by legendary drummer Steve Gadd and 21st century bass giant James Genus, the proceedings are reflective, swinging, chock-a-block with unfailingly melodic improvising and beautiful tonalities.

“We felt it’s far more exciting and adventurous to move forward,” James says. “Times have changed. The music business has changed. We have changed.”

“At this stage of my life, I wanted more than anything to play music that’s challenging and fun, outside the style we’ve been associated with,” Sanborn says. “For various reasons, a lot of my records only reflected one side of the many kinds of music I was doing.” Over the past decade, Sanborn adds, his records “reflect a side of my sensibility that I hadn’t been expressing as much, paying respects to guys like Hank Crawford and David ‘Fathead’ Newman, who inspired me to start when I was a teenager in St. Louis.”

Interestingly, James wasn’t fully sold on the notion of an all-acoustic environment for Quartette Humaine until the project was well underway. “I thought some of the songs might want to be produced, or have overdubs, or maybe strings, or other things associated with our earlier music,” he recalls. “But as it developed, the quartet vibe we created was so strong that it became more interesting to keep it that way.”

It’s a poignant coincidence that the recording sessions occurred a week after the death of the iconic pianist-composer Dave Brubeck, who the protagonists were thinking of as they gestated Quartette Humaine. “We talked about the interplay of Brubeck’s quartet with Paul Desmond,” Sanborn says. “Coming from that, I assumed we’d make a quartet date. I like being able to really hear all the individual instruments. We had this beautiful 9-foot grand piano, and you can hear its sound ring out. You get more sonic purity without all those other elements.”

Indeed, both the tunes and treatments channel Brubeck’s gift for creating communicative music from highbrow raw materials. “Dave has a similar capability to Paul Desmond—though in a different way—in that the lyric quality of the way they play takes it into an emotional-romantic concept rather than an intellectual one,” James says of Sanborn. “I felt—and I still do when I listen to the Brubeck quartet—that they were taking us on an adventure, and some of the adventure was challenging. Just when you thought you knew where you were going, they’d go somewhere different.”

That “edge of being in an unknown place” permeates “Follow Me,” on which James signifies on Brubeck’s 9/8 classic “Blue Rondo A La Turk” by creating “a fast, virtuoso tune on which we take the listener through a bunch of odd time signatures where they may not always know where they are.” He adds, “Steve Gadd flowed through it so effortlessly that I got worried it was sounding too smooth.” Another new opus, “You’d Better Not Go To College,” reimagines Brubeck’s classic “In Your Own Sweet Way” “in mood though not exactly in style,” and references Brubeck’s breakthrough album Jazz Goes To College, which James recalls hearing as a high school sophomore in Marshall, Missouri.

Sanborn’s ravishing tone comes to the fore on James’ arrangement of “Geste Humaine,” composed by the French songwriter-singer Alice Soyer. On the American Songbook classic “My Old Flame,” addressed in 12/8, the altoist soars soulfully on the cushion of James’ elegant voicings and written thematic counterpoint bassline. He uncorks an ascendant declamation on “Montezuma,” which James composed “very specifically” for his partner. “I thought about supporting Dave’s sound with a symphony orchestra,” James laughs, describing the latter piece. “There’s dramatic tension that resolves in a very major, majestic way, with Dave way up in his upper register. But we realized that interpreting it in the raw quartet mode was even more powerful.”

The alto master presents his gift for melodic invention on his three compositions, offering a new ballad, “Genevieve,” for his granddaughter, and revisiting two tunes that Gil Goldstein framed with elegant orchestrations on the 2004 classic, Closer —“Sofia,” a ballad for his wife, and “Another Time, Another Place,” dedicated to Herbie Hancock.

“It’s so much fun to do it this way,” Sanborn says. “I used to separate live playing from being in the studio, and got into a mindset of having to labor over a record and make it right. I want the studio to reflect that live experience—the fun of discovery, not knowing what’s going to happen until it happens.”

By following such “in-the-moment” approach throughout Quartette Humaine, James and Sanborn have produced another masterpiece. As James sums up: “We seem to be reflecting back on what our lives have been, where our earlier projects have taken us. We tried to figure out the strengths we’ve learned by experience, and to bring them to this project where we celebrate that we’ve done so many things and that we’re still able to keep creating.” – Montereyjazzfestival.com

ANDY SNITZER – THE RHYTHM

Andy Snitzer is back with his latest release, The Rhythm. Set to street on April 16 2013 on the Native Language label.

I am happy to say that The Rhythm is an exciting part of the new sound for contemporary jazz, for the uninitiated think of 480 East meets Four Play and you get the idea. Snitzer has a distinctive fat tenor sound, that sound some players work for years but never find and with that he does an end run around that cookie cutter sound of some contemporary artists by adding a rhythmic excursion and fantastic improvisational chops as well versed as any player across the jazz spectrum.

Oddly enough Chuck Loeb from Four Play does make an appearance on Latin influenced “Caso De Amor” and adds some real deal flavor to a slightly darker and richer sound that permeates The Rhythm. A more ambient slightly techno influence is laid down from trumpet phenom Till Bronner on “Kinnetic” which is more of an open ended funk fest slightly reminiscent of perhaps Shilts or another British acid jazz favorite in Down To The Bone. The first single “Candy” sparks an insatiable groove and rhythm that sound fresh despite the use of MIDI programming. Tim Lefebvre may be one of the most underrated bass players if not certainly one of the most versatile and his skills are well defined throughout. The bass duties are shared with James Genus also proving just what a real deal bassist can do. A huge plus here is that there are no vocals tossed in that go nowhere as with some contemporary artists.

The Rhythm has Andy Snitzer at the top of his game, getting his groove back and proving contemporary jazz doesn’t have to predictable to be creative. An absolute rock solid release. 4 Stars

Tracks Candy; Velvet; Devotion; Breaking; No Exit; Sirens Serenade; Kinetic; Caso De Amor; And Again; Above Us All; Realise.
Personnel: Michael White: drums; James Genus: bass; Bernd Schoenhart: guitar; Alain Mallet: rhodes/clav/ synth), Jim Hynes: flugelhorn, trumpet; Michael Davis: trombone; Shawn Pelton: drums; Tim Lefebvre: bass; Graham Hawthorne: drums; Paul Pesco: guitar; Paul Livant: guitar; Tony Kadleck: trumpet; Chuck Loeb: guitar; Andy Snitzer: synth bass, tenor saxophone, keyboards, MIDI programming; Matt Dine: oboe; David Mann: woodwinds/string arrangements/MIDI programming.   – criticaljazz.com

MICHAEL BUBLE – TO BE LOVED

With a son on the way and a new album with more original songs than ever, Michael Buble is venturing into uncharted territory without letting go of his personal or artistic roots.
“To Be Loved,” the 37-year-old Canadian singer’s follow-up to his 2011 “Christmas” album, mixes standards inspired by jazz, Motown and even the Bee Gees, with tracks written by Buble as well as collaborations with Bryan Adams and Reese Witherspoon.
“I wanted everything to be soulful,” Buble told Reuters.
The album grabbed the top spot on the UK Billboard chart the week of its April 15 release there, and is poised to take the top US spot after debuting stateside this week.
Buble said that he was inspired to write more of his own songs such as the single “It’s a Beautiful Day” after receiving a positive response to previous originals like “Haven’t Met You Yet” and “Home.”
Still, he remains committed to the classics that first made him famous.
“I love writing songs, but the truth is I love doing thoughtful, great covers too,” he said.
“It’ll never get to a point where I have a record that comes out of all originals.”
“To Be Loved” has received mostly positive reviews especially for the classic tracks, though a few critics found the album uneven. Buble said that his most important reviews come from his fans.
“The truth is that the greatest review I can get is somebody putting their hard-earned money into the hand of a cashier and investing in me to buy the CD,” he said.
By that measure, he is doing quite well: Buble has sold 45 million albums over the course of his career, and is set to play 10 sold-out shows at London’s 02 Arena beginning on June 30.
He will be back from touring in time for the birth of his first child, a son due on August 21. Buble said that he and wife, Argentine actress and singer Luisana Lopilato, agree that family will always come before career.
He has already cut back on his time away from home in anticipation of his son’s arrival.
“My wife is a really successful actress, and I don’t think it’s fair for me to be the one who’s always working,” he said. “She loves working, it feeds her soul, and when she’s working she’s happy.”
Buble, who comes from a family of fishermen in British Columbia, Canada, says he wants his son to grow up with the same values that marked his early years.
“I think we take great comfort in knowing that we have families that are so down to earth and real, great blue-collar families, that just being around that will be enough to keep that kid centered,” he said.
On his new album, Buble sings a song called “I Got It Easy,” which he wrote about his current life.
“I want him to grow up knowing that it doesn’t come easy, that you have to work for things you really want,” he said. – Reuters

LET IT RIDE
Jeff Kashiwa released “Play” to critical acclaim in 2007. Downbeat called it perhaps the best contemporary release for the year and now five years later Kashiwa dropped “Let It Ride” on 08/21/12. Kashiwa’s fifth recording for Native Language is arguably his best for reasons both old and new.

Having worked for and with bands such as The Rippingtons and The Sax Pack, Kashiwa comes from outside the more traditional cookie-cutter mold that a majority of similar players tend to both come and play from. Let It Ride is an exploration of a myriad of textures and influences that run the table from R&B, pop and the more straight ahead approach to perhaps Kashiwa taking command of the sound that is synonymous with his sonic wheelhouse which is soul-jazz and blues. Couple this musical versatility with Kashiwa’s decade of diversity on the stage and his move into the jazz field and you have perhaps the most well grounded contemporary sax player on the scene today. It is the movement between the disciplines of both performing with a variety of ensembles and his new found love for teaching that keep Kashiwa’s vibrant signature sound front and center.

While keeping a schedule that would have worn down most musicians much earlier, Kashiwa had the good fortune and sonic sense to call in a few musical I.O.U’s to and brought in an all star guest lineup including Rippington’s founder Russ Freeman, pianist David Benoit and special guest guitarist from Fourplay Chuck Loeb to name but a few. Let It Ride has Kashiwa pushing the harmonically with a freedom and all most live in the studio freedom not heard on any other recording since perhaps his critically acclaimed from five years ago. Consider this release kicked up several notches.

“Stomp” is one of the better tunes on the release. A slightly more exotic flavor creates the perfect platform for Kashiwa’s expressive soprano and Chuck Loeb’s crisp, angular six string work. Nothing predictable here. Kashiwa’s playing is far more adventurous on this release as he works the bottom end of the alto to paint from a brilliant sonic color palette on “The Name Game” which is an blues infused tropical textured piece with some stellar keyboard work turned in by Nicholas Cole. Another highlight would be the emotionally charged and slightly Steely Dan-esque groove laid down on “One Of These Days” but of course it certainly doesn’t hurt when you have one of musics premier drummers in Ricky Lawson owning the pocket and setting the table for the band to indeed welcome you to the land of rhythm and groove. Kashiwa excels on this piece more so than any other bringing his own brand of flash fried soul to a party you just hate to see end. This funkalicious edge is continued with “Hot Tin Roof” but the key to the release is like any, ebb and flow as the cooler side of pillow is touched on “When Will I Know.”

Jeff Kashiwa took on the role of producer here giving credence to the old adage if you want something done right then do it yourself. From high octane funk to that low rider cool, Kashiwa has never played better and his friends followed suite. Infectious energy and passion is contagious and has allowed what might otherwise “pass” as a really good contemporary release move into a real of greatness few artists can hit with this kind of pop and vitality.

Jeff Kashiwa is the type of saxophone player that again confirms why the best place for my tenor could be that of wall decoration on the T.G.I Fridays. If this release is not the best contemporary release of the year then it has to be in the top 3! A virtually flawless recording with all participants hitting their marks! – criticaljazz.com

BLUEY – LEAP OF FAITH

After 15 albums with INCOGNITO, the band’s driving force Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick has recorded a remarkable debut solo album “Leap of Faith”, for release by Dome on March 25.

This stunning album features all lead and backing vocals by this traditionally most reluctant of singers (who has sung on only a couple of Incognito tracks over the years). With most of the songs co-written and co-produced with one of his long standing collaborators Richard Bull, it ranges from dance anthems to funk to modern soul floor fillers such as lead single “Got To Let My Feelings Show”.

Bluey explains: “I have always felt comfortable leading from the back – guiding others and bringing out the best of their artistry. This past year was the first time I felt a compelling desire to bare my soul in this way with what one of my friends called my musical autobiography.

“In Incognito I am surrounded by awesome musicians and singers. I needed to reach a place where I felt my voice had its own space and that my sound was not just a twist on the band’s theme. Once there it was just a matter of jumping in… taking a leap of faith”.

The album includes some stunning falsetto vocal performances and a couple of stand-out house tracks “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” and “Why Did I Let You Go”, co-produced by Ski Oakenfull and Simon Grey respectively. – Dome Records

Spencer Day – The Mystery Of You
Singer-songwriter, Spencer Day, is back with his hotly anticipated new album, The Mystery of You, due out March 12th on Concord Records. Veering into what he calls a “darker territory” than fans might expect on his first LP in three years, Day elicits his prodigious talents to examine love and loss in all of its crippling vicissitude. Yet the legion of supporters who’ve followed the handsome rising star for nearly a decade now need not worry, The Mystery Of You still enlists the up tempo jazz-pop sound and cinematic spirit that have made Spencer Day so successful.

While fans might be surprised to find their effervescent troubadour examining the darker side of his personality, Day couldn’t help but acknowledge this aspect of human nature after quite a difficult break-up. The Mystery Of You finds him drawing comparisons between crimes of the heart, and crimes against the law. Songs such as “Shadow Man” have an admittedly Film-Noir-ish vibe, probing the murkier corners of humanity in the vein of some of the classics of that genre like The Lady From Shanghai.

A lifelong cinephile, Day evokes the dark beauty of one of his favorite film styles to imbue the disk’s 12 songs with the bleak, claustrophobic feel of heartbreak. Yet Day is no cynic, and he also peppers the songs with nods to another genre of iconic Hollywood films- the Spaghetti Westerns. Famous themselves for soundtracks that expertly blended Americana folk with Classical arrangements, films like The Good The Bad And The Ugly, inform not only the new record, but also his genre-busting live shows.

Yet despite the darker themes that populate The Mystery Of You, the album is still very much grounded in the jazz-pop melodies fans have come to love and expect from Spencer Day. Perhaps most influenced by his love of the music of the early 60’s, the new album does find him atmospherically probing love and loss, but with the raw honesty and strict adherence to melody and structure that artists such as Dusty Springfield brought to their craft.

Recorded in the Topanga Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles, The Mystery Of You also reflects the easy-breezy creative spirit and natural charm of both its inspirational setting and its singer. A Roy Orbison for the new millennium, marching to the Ennio Morricone soundtrack in his head, Spencer Day continues to chart his own musical course. – bravenewhollywood.com

Craig Chaquico – Fire Red Moon
Craig Chaquico has made the transition from ethereal to earthy in his first blues album. On Fire Red Moon, Chaquico shows that he can master the blues. If he continues to pursue the blues he will fast became a fan favorite.” – Twangville
“On Fire Red Moon, it’s full-on kick ass time again. The blues-heavy set features vocalist Rolf Hartley wailing on a mix of tunes co-penned by Chaquico and-standard-but-never-old covers like “Born Under a Bad Sign”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin” and “Crossroads.” Those who miss his softer side can find traces of it in the instrumental “Blue on Blue,” but Fire Red Moon leaves no doubt that this always-masterful player has returned to plugged-in mode for real.”- Relix
Craig Chaquico, platinum-selling guitarist and songwriter with Jefferson Starship and chart-topping Smooth Jazz solo artist, takes a walk on the bluesier side of the street with the release of his Blind Pig debut, Fire Red Moon.
From the radio-friendly opening track, “Lie To Me,” (with vocal by Noah Hunt of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band) to the thunderous conclusion of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” Chaquico explores the thoroughfares and back alleys where blues and rock intersect. There’s an instrumental version of Albert King’s signature tune, “Born Under A Bad Sign,” a rousing cover of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” and sterling originals that echo the sounds of blues/rock forerunners such as Cream, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top, and Steely Dan. There’s even an instrumental tune entitled “Blue On Blue” that would appeal to Craig’s many smooth jazz fans.
Now entering the fifth decade of his illustrious career, with the release of Fire Red Moon Chaquico continues his improbable journey from the boy-wonder of 70’s rock to genre-defying success as a top jazz and new age guitarist, returning now to the roots blues he listened to in his early teens.
Says Chaquico, “The multi-platinum stadium rock period in my musical life was as rewarding as it was fun, and part of my higher musical education. And as much as I still love instrumental smooth jazz, which for me was always blues-based anyway, I sometimes missed the edge that I could experience with blues-based rock and roll.” – Blind Pig Records